Sermon for June 17, 2018: “Father of Mine”

Ezekiel 17:22-24
Mark 4:30-34

Since this is Father’s Day I wanted to share with you a story about my dad, Paul Luther Conrad.

When I was 19 I went to the Kure Beach Retreat Center with my church Youth Group.
While I was there I met a young lady from another church group in Taylorsville.

The week I got back from the beach I made a trip up to see her. Before leaving I told mom and dad I would get home late that night. I said maybe around midnight.

I did come home late.
However, it wasn’t at midnight more like 2 in the morning.

As I was driving into the garage I saw my dad, fully clothed, walking to his van.

I thought someone at church had passed away.

But when I asked him what was wrong, he said he was worried about me.
He said, “I thought you might have been in an accident or the car broke down.”
“Dad, Taylorsville is over 90 minutes away. How could you have possibly known where to look?”

“Son, no matter where you were, I was going to find you.”

And he meant it.

In our reading from Ezekiel, you will read about a God who is ready to make a late-night run.
And this God has one thing on His mind:
To find his people.

In Chapter 17, Ezekiel talks about God’s punishment in the form of the foreign powers Egypt and Babylon who have attacked Judah.

Why was God punishing Judah?

Because Judah walked away from God.
They forgot all about worshipping God, and they turned their attention to themselves.
Which left them easy prey for foreign powers to overthrow them.
And now they are in exile.
No homeland.
no home.

But then verses 22-24 have Ezekiel talking about restoration, renewal, and forgiveness.

And in these verses God uses a powerful pronoun:
I will plant a tree.
I will set it out.
I will accomplish it.

God is going to do the hard work himself.

Because God is the only one who can do it.

And that means that all is not lost

And it also means that as the people walked away,
God was ready to find them.

Jesus works off this same principle in our Gospel, when he talks about the Mustard Seed.
Something so small and insignificant, but when it grows it becomes a place of refuge for something else, in this case a bird.

In the first lesson, God comes and finds the people.

In the Gospel, Jesus makes it easy for the people (the birds) to find him.

Let me paint that another way.

Back in the 90s there was a song called Father of Mine by the rock band Everclear.
Back when I worked in radio they were one of the first bands I get to meet and hang out with.
The song was written by the lead singer dedicated to his dad. It wasn’t a love story. His dad left him and his mom when he was young. And that desertion scarred him and changed him for the rest of his life. My daddy gave me a name, and then he walked away.

Now the song had a video and in this video, I will always remember this: the father is walking away from the mother, walks past his son, storms out to the car, all the while the son is trying to catch up with him, and he just drives away while his son still trying to catch up with him.

Two years ago, I was heading back to church for a meeting and Kristen and Paul were outside playing. As I was backing out of our driveway, I turn and see Paul running with his toy in his hand, trying to catch up to me and crying.
And wouldn’t you know THAT song popped in my head, and all I could do was yell “No! I’m not walking away. It’s just a Property Meeting!”

I wasn’t going to be the walking away daddy.

For Jesus, he doesn’t walk away.

He is easy to find.
He is found here (Bible),
he is found here (church),
he is found here (my neighbor),
here (the birds),

Jesus finds ways for us to find him.
Which went against the long standing belief of that time that God was far away.
A distant God.

Well Jesus proved that wrong.
He showed that God was not THERE, but HERE.
He always had been HERE.

But as we see in Ezekiel there are times we just don’t see or seek God.
So God has to do the work.
Which brings me back to my story about my dad.

My dad was stricken with polio when he was 16 years old. He never walked on his own two feet again. For almost 50 years he used crutches. Later on a scooter. Walking was not easy for him.
When I think back to that night, I now think of all that my dad had to go through just to start that search. He had to get up. Get dressed. Put his braces on. Get his crutches. Something that might take us five minutes took him closer to 30.

But it didn’t matter because he was going to find his son.

Getting back to God.
Think of what God did.
God sent his son.
To be born and raised by Mary and Joseph.
Then that son went on to be arrested, prosecuted, bullied, tortured, and killed.

But what mattered to God was that he was going to find us.
God was going to get us back.
And he certainly did.

A few days after our late night encounter, I gave my dad a Thank You card. Had a papa bear holding on to a bike while the son bear is about to ride for the first time. And it was a thank you for never letting go.
He held on to that card until he passed back in 2010.

Once God has a hold on us, God never lets go.

In fact I believe every day God holds on to us just a little tighter.

Because that’s the kind of Father we have.